This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Monday 19 October 2015

How to be a Good Pope

Since it is quite likely that two or three of my readers will end up as Pope one day, it would be helpful to give them some advice how to behave themselves. Otherwise, like a certain Argentinian who must remain nameless, they will go down in history as "A Good Man, but a Bad Pope."

Pope Alexander VI

Pope Alexander VI. A Bad Man but a Good Pope. Possibly.

O.K. So the conclave is over, and Team Thargoglio (a bunch of dodgy cardinals who really ought to have known better) has managed to get you elected. Choose a papal name appropriate for the dignity of your office: so "Pope Custard" is out, but so are "Pope Judas" and "Pope Pontius", even if these are Biblical names. I suggest you choose a previous pope that you greatly admire (perhaps not Peter, as that would be a bit too cheeky), and become the next in line: Pius XIII, John XXIV, Benedict XVII, according to taste. Or you can choose a saint's name that hasn't been used before, e.g. Pope Bosco, but it is a little eccentric.

Vianney and Hartnell

The same goes for Pope John Vianney, alias Pope William Hartnell.

Now, popes are supposed to maintain a tradition that goes back two thousand years, so DON'T rush to change things. You may not like red shoes, but wear them, as they have a significance that you may not have been told about. Don't go and live in some weird place where popes have never lived before, e.g. a simple cardboard box in the catacombs beneath the Vatican: it may give you a reputation for humility, but it may also give you a reputation for being difficult.

cardboard box

A humble pope.

Likewise, if the papal chef is offering to cook you a Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy, and a fried egg on top, and Spam, then it is very rude to slope off down to "Il Nosho de Sid", the Vatican café, for a plate of pasta. Even if it makes you look like "one of the lads".

Pope Francis in canteen

"The chap in white - haven't I seen him on the telly?"

Now popes are supposed to be above petty politics, so don't rush to reward your friends, or to punish your enemies. Saying to a distinguished Cardinal, "Look, Ray, we're having a three-week 'bring a heresy' party next October. All your craziest pals are coming - Cupich, Wuerl, Dolan - but you're not invited" is just rude.

This self-help guide needs to broken up into two or more pieces, so I'll stop there. Just remember, Pope Innocent - or whatever - that you are not there to rewrite doctrine, or to push your favourite theory (whether it's climate change, homeopathic medicine, or the belief that the world's economy is being manipulated by dinosaurs from outer space). Stick to Christian teaching wherever possible, OK?

stegosaurus in London

"Could you direct me to the Stock Exchange, please?"

Oh, and DON'T give impromptu interviews to journalists. They're not to be trusted.


  1. 'Two or three of my readers will end up as Pope one day' - what - all at the same time? The Guest House will get a bit crowded.

    Thanks for solving a mystery I have had ever since visiting Ars - I could not think who the good Priest reminded me of - now I know and I was once a fan of that particular Dr Who!

  2. OK. I am considering whether or not I am called. What are the pay, pension, overtime and holiday arrangements? Do I get share options in the German subsidiary? If I get to call vice virtue, do I get to choose the vices? Is there a limit on the number of vices I can reverse? I insist on having Sundays, Christmas and Easter off. Is the 'baby kissing, looking sad and smiley at poor people and holding lambs (ugh)' thing mandatory, couldn't I just photo-shop? I don't want a beaten up Fiat (though, again we could photo-shop a bike or a Segway). Can I have a Silver Ghost with a young attractive female driver? I look forward to meeting you at interview (I have always seen you as Cardinal material). Please enclose expenses claim with reply.
    (My motto 'Semper de me agitur' - It's always about me).

  3. I know a bloke who runs a small coffee shop. I'm sure his name is Jimmie, no it's Guiano, or Guilliani, not sure. Anyway his family name is I think Medici, or something like that.

    We'll pop in tomorrow and have a word with him?

  4. Sadly, I'm not one of Eccles' readers who will become pope unless, of course, Francis changes that too.

  5. Please forward to me the name of a cardinal or two that might be 'persuaded' to vote for Lepanto for me (since I am of the fair sex and unable to vote normally...). I might be able to inspire them to help get him into office. He sounds like a natural! Of course, I'll be writing a book all about it, to be published a few years after the fact, and I'll expect a cut. But I DO NOT want to be put up at the Casa Santa Marta!

  6. Thanks MK, I am humbled (hey, that's a new feeling). Think Rome Hilton and 50%. Some of my predecessors have sold indulgences, I am thinking of selling excommunications, just send me a list (10% discount for founding supporters) prices on election.

  7. Names are tricky. Given the need to wear red shoes, I have been thinking of Pope Dorothy. Jezebel is a good Biblical name, of course. Would that do?

    Thanks for clearing up the identity of the Cure of Arse. I thought it was a sort of ointment.